PSC moving forward with limited reforms

The Florida Public Service Commission is moving forward with rules to define prohibited “ex parte” communications. Bills to define such prohibited communications in commission failed to win legislative approval.

The bills were offered in response to news reports last year of communications between commissioners’ staff and utility representatives during rate hearing requests. PSC staff told commissioners they should move forward with developing commission rules that would prohibit such communications.

Commission Chairman Nancy Argenziano said those rules likely would not apply fines to outside parties or ban lobbying by commissioners and staff as SB 1034 had proposed. “That’s not going to solve the problems but it is the right thing to do,” she said. She said the biggest problem remains political influence by the legislators and their utilities’ backers over the PSC.

Also Tuesday, PSC Commissioner Lisa Polak Edgar provided the Florida Tribune a letter sent Monday to PSC Executive Director Tim Devlin asking him to review whether there are practices that can be implemented to protect commission staff “from undue pressure, influence and worry.”

PSC Commissioner David E. Klement told other commissioners that the Senate’s refusal last week to confirm him to the PSC was only the “first battle” in a war for truth. The Senate refused to confirm Klement and Ben A. “Steve” Stevens III after some senators questioned their professional experience to serve on the commission.

Klement said he could have been confirmed by not having voted down rate utility rate hike requests. “I could have made my life so much easier by just saying nothing,” Klement said, but he added that would have violated his oath of office. Klement and Stevens will serve on the commission until May 30, an agency spokeswoman said.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)